By Carlo Versano
Silicon Valley may have reached peak caricature when a former Netflix creative director scored $1.6 million in seed funding for his beverage idea: Mountain water. In a tallboy can.
Liquid Death, with the tagline "Murder Your Thirst," took off as the joke du jour on social media ー but as co-founder and CEO Mike Cessario told Cheddar on Tuesday, the company is more innovative than any of its bottled water competitors.
That comes down to the can. Bottled water is now the biggest segment of the beverage industry in the U.S., but plastic bottles are notoriously bad for the environment, even when they're recycled. That's because, as Cessario noted, most of time that plastic can't be recycled into new bottles and ends up getting shipped to places like China for use in cheap textiles ー which then end up in landfills.
Cans, though, are widely considered to be the most sustainable beverage container because the aluminum is endlessly recyclable (they're also lighter than glass bottles, which counts for a lot when considering the emissions created from delivery and recycling trucks). Cessario said that the only reason consumers don't think of canned water is because they've been "programmed" to only drink beer and soda out of a can.
"We don't just put it in a can because cans are cool," Cessario said. "Plastic bottles are terrible."
As for Liquid Death's marketing strategy ー written off by many as snake oil and an example of toxic masculinity ー Cessario said he saw an opening in the health-food space to bring a breezier tone that is more in line with how many junk-food makers have advertised for years.
Health-conscious brands have a "narrow focus" in their marketing, while brands like Dos Equis, Snickers, Doritos, and Skittles seem to have all the fun he said. "All unhealthy things are the ones making the funny, irreverent, awesome marketing."
"Let's have just as much fun as the energy drink companies and the beer companies and market the healthiest thing you can drink," Cessario added.
So far, that strategy seems to be working. The $1.6 million Series C round, which brings Liquid Death's total funding to $2.2 million, included investors like Michael Dubin, the founder of Dollar Shave Club, and Jen Rubio, the founder of Away luggage. Stock was sold out on Amazon for three weeks, and it racked up social-media impressions that some legacy water brands would, well, murder for.
And for all the punk rock posturing, Liquid Death is donating a nickel from every can sold to help clean plastic garbage from the oceans. After all, there's nothing more metal for brands who want to appeal to millennials than sustainability.
For full interview click here.